June 18, 2021
US communications regulator the FCC wants to significantly expand the scope of its ban on Chinese telecoms equipment.
A year ago the FCC designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats and, as a consequence, barred federal funds from being spent on buying kit from them. This mainly affected smaller, rural providers who rely on state subsidies and, obviously, exerted no influence over those that don’t.
Now it’s proposing to impose a blanket ban on all such purchases, regardless of whether federal funds are involved or not, and it’s even thinking of revoking past ‘authorizations’. That specific use of language is telling as it indicates a desire on the part of the US state to further impose its will on the private sector by claiming power of veto over every decision it makes.
“Despite having identified security concerns with telecommunications equipment from Huawei and ZTE back in 2019, for the last several years this agency has continued to put its stamp of approval on this equipment,” said acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. “In other words, we have left open opportunities for its use in the United States through our equipment authorization process. So here we propose to close that door.”
“Once an entity lands on our Covered List, there appears to be no reason why the FCC should continue to review its gear and offer the FCC’s seal of approval,” said Commissioner Brendan Carr. “Taking this step, as I first proposed in 2019 and then expanded on in March of this year, will strengthen our national security by preventing the further installation and use of insecure technology in our networks.”
“Back in 2019, I called for the Commission to examine its equipment authorization authority as a possible tool for improving our network security,” said Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “Since then, I’ve repeatedly highlighted the need to secure our supply chain, particularly with respect to devices originating overseas. I’m therefore glad that we’re moving forward with these proposed rules and I look forward to the public comments. While I recognize that the issues are complex, we cannot continue to authorize, import, and use equipment from companies deemed to present a national security threat.”
Commissioner Nathan Simington didn’t need to try to exonerate himself because he hasn’t been at the FCC for long. All this banging on about 2019 does beg the question of why it took the FCC two years to act on these deeply-felt convictions, but presumably they’ll just blame Trump. Either way the precedent now seems to be set for the FCC to have even more power over US CSPs.
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